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Sessions, Playgrounds, and Meets ups - Oh My! ISTE 2019 Takeaways Part 1

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

Hi friend,

I wanted to write a post about all the learning that occurred during ISTE. I couldn’t help but think of all the connections made and the people I met. So I had an idea spark — why don’t I reach out to my PLN power players to speak into this post? After all, we are better together. So here are our thoughts as a collective group of educators regarding our experiences at ISTE. So sit back and enjoy as we spill the tea on our ISTE 19 takeaways.

I have been planning my ISTE game plan since January. I even had a document in my OneDrive account called, ISTE schedule of events and I started to add to it as events, meetups, and playgrounds came up. I also knew I had to meet with amazing PLN power players at ISTE. Honestly for me going to ISTE is like being in a space with educators who are like-minded and want to grow, learn, and lead. So, let’s jump right in!

First, let me introduce you to the authors:

Dr. Sam Fecich, professor of education, podcaster, author, and PSL fan. I’m from Pittsburgh, PA. Please find me on Twitter and Instagram: SFecich and check out my site:

Debbie Tannenbaum, School Based Technology Specialist at Sangster Elementary School in Springfield, VA in Fairfax County, VA. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram: MrsTannenb and on my website: Techy Notes

Dr. Jessica Redcay, teacher, college adjunct, GirlsWhoCode leader, presenter, and lifelong learner. I was thrilled that ISTE was in my home state: PA! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram: RedcayResources and check out my site: Redcay’s Resources

Amanda Jeane Reichert, 4th Grade Teacher, Educator, Technology Innovator, Robot Enthusiast, Volunteer, Foodie, Board Gamer, Future Jedi, Citizen of the Environment, KTI 2019. You can find me on twitter @AmandJeane2 and my webpage

Erin Hall, High School English Teacher and Founder of the Young Educators Society of Rhode Island, from Rhode Island. Let’s connect @erinhall47 on Twitter, @mshallclassroom on Instagram, or at and @yesriorg on all major social media platforms!

Erin McDonnell-Jones, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Bellevue University in Bellevue (Omaha), Nebraska. Find me on Twitter or Instagram @teacheredBU.

Poster Sessions

I look forward to the poster sessions each year. I get to learn from educators (and students) from around the world. I can get a lot of information from a variety of perspectives on topics such as the latest tech tool, to teaching strategy, to how students incorporated STEM into their lessons. They are incredible.

Dr. Jessica Redcay shares, “There were a lot of great poster sessions. QR codes made it easy to access the information from the different presenters. It is always exciting to see something new, and I learned about Kinazium. This is a kit that can be changed to create mazes for various robots.”

She goes onto share that, “Pear Deck was a tool that was shared at several poster session. This add-on tool in Google Slides that promotes interaction and engagement.” I love sharing Peardeck with my preservice teachers as it is a tool that can be used across subject areas, grade levels, and content areas. I love that I can see where students are in the presentation and encourage them to be active listeners and learners in the lesson at hand.


Dr. Jess Redcay shares, “The DoInk Playground was filled with a lot of fun green screens. The DoInk App will be updated soon, and it works in conjunction with the DoInk Animation App. It was fun to create green screen images, and it was fun to app smash by tossing in AR images using a Merge Cube.” I don’t know about you, but I will definitely be exploring this tool when I get back in the fall with preservice teachers. I love teaching and showing them the latest and greatest tech tools so they are up to date and ready to roll. But it is so important to link it back to standards and remember the purpose behind the learning. We can use this for book trailers, book reviews, historical events, chronological order, sequencing — the list goes on!

What ideas do you have?

I met Amanda on Twitter and we become fast friends- two peas in a teaching pod. I loved hearing about her passion to impact learners in the area of STEM. So here she is in her own words, “Last year, I attended ISTE 2018 in Chicago for the first time. One thing that struck me was the lack of students at a conference dedicated to education. The whole experience leaves you wondering where the money is going and lacking authenticity. So I came home with a mission: get kids to ISTE. Since ISTE19 was in Philadelphia, I had an opportunity to bring students from home. I wrote a summer camp curriculum for a 3-day intensive robotics camp. In 2 days these DASD students created working robots with mechanisms using Hummingbird Circuit Boards by Birdbrain Technologies. On the 3rd day, I brought them on a field trip to ISTE to showcase their robotics for an authentic audience of teachers! Not only did the students do an amazing job, but they also had an experience that would not have been possible otherwise.” YES! Can you believe it! Her students designed a robot in 2 days and presented it at ISTE! What an amazing real-life application of a project. They really used those four C-s (communicate, collaborate, create, and thinking critically) — amazing.

I met Dr. Erin at ISTE 2019 and we become fast friends too — that just seems to happen at ISTE right? Any-who, Erin and I discussed everything from PLNs for preservice teachers to digital presence, and virtual co-ops. She is an amazing colleague and I love learning from her. Erin McDonnell-Jones shares, “The Teacher Education Network (#isteTEN) playground had a lot to offer! So many great educators had a lot of awesome resources to share. @kammaskersch had an awesome Twitter bingo idea (here), while @wickededtech had some awesome resources for professional development that can be used for both current and future educators (here).” I agree the ISTETEN playground was a hopin’ place to be! So much to learn and share. If you DM me I can send you the link ALL of the resources!


ISTE is full of fabulous learning experiences through their playground and posters, but a lot of learning can also occur during their dynamic sessions. Dr. Jess Redcay shares, “Fab@School Maker Studio that was sponsored by Cisco, and the session was amazing. The presenters shared about how UVA’s research revealed a need to find ways to bring STEAM education to younger children. The research study demonstrated that papermaking was the easiest solution. Their software allows students to design things that can be cut and printed on a Silhouette. Examples were provided of the 2D and 3D paper fabrications. One class made a replica of their school. Plus, educators had a chance to play and create things too! It was awesome seeing how the research was used to guide educational practices.”

She goes onto share, “ISTE CEO, Richard Culatta, talked about the new definition of digital citizenship. Additional information about digital citizenship is available at ISTE Digital Citizenship.

Friends I have to introduce you to Erin Hall. She is an amazing educator in Rhode Island who developed the YESRI — Young Educators Society in RI. She is a fantastic colleague and inspiration. Erin shares, “I attended two different sessions on using social media in schools that were absolutely fantastic. Nate Green specifically highlighted the divide between how students use social media and how schools treat social media — if students are spending upwards of 6–7 hours a day on Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch, etc., shouldn’t we be figuring out a way to harness those tools for educational purposes rather than ban them in schools? He brought up the concept of passion projects revolving around students creating their own personal learning networks on social media to create an ongoing portfolio of research and projects related to something they are interested in. Check out his collection of resources for students here! ”

I love this idea of focusing in on students’ passions and interests how can we use that to help them build a positive digital presence?

Dr. Erin shares, “While attending the research sessions, one theme kept resonating through a variety of presentations: preparing future teachers to incorporate educational technology effectively is not a “one and done” class; it’s a continuous learning process. One study from Edinboro University showed that students felt comfortable using technology in pre-service classes, that comfort declined through methods/student teaching, and finally saw more decline in a full-time position. That same study saw that pre-service teachers have high self-efficacy with technology integration while student teachers report the lowest self-efficacy; therefore, university professors and teacher prep programs need to model meaningful tech integration throughout the entire program!” Preach it Erin! Yes!

We can’t teach teachers the way we were taught — they need to be prepared for their classroom — not ours 20 years ago!

Debbie and I have been connected on Twitter since fall of last year and she is a fantastic person to get to know. She is driven to impact and engage students by using technology to help them tell their story and show what they know. She shares, “If I could share one tip about sessions, it would be to make sure to attend at least 1 BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) session each day. BYOD sessions are sessions that you can sign up for in advance and are definitely a highlight of any ISTE experience. There are so many to choose from and I decided to choose a different focus each day for my BYOD sessions and they have really impacted me.”

Debbie goes onto share, “On Sunday, I took a “Get Creative with Scratch” session. So often as educators, we don’t have time to play with programs that we are unfamiliar with- so this session was invaluable. I got to play around with “Scratch” and work collaboratively with others to get to know this incredible resource. On Monday, I took #stopmotionslides with Jake Miller. This session was not only fun but gave me a new skill I can use with my staff and students. To see an example of what I made, click here. Tuesday, I learned how to make digital breakouts using Google Sites and Google Forms and Wednesday, I took a hands-on workshop about podcasting with students. All of these sessions were incredible and I would highly recommend attending BYOD sessions when you attend ISTE!”


Events are like the sprinkles on a donut at ISTE. There were so many events to attend and to network. I personally enjoyed the EdCamp meet up where I got to meet Haley Ferguson! I also got to know Dr. Asim as we shared an Uber ;) and chatted over pizza before heading the Edtech Karaoke.

Debbie adds, “One of my big takeaways and tips from #ISTE19 is to attend events outside of the convention. Events like #CoffeeEdus allow you to have a more informal experience connecting with both authors and other educators. Attending events where everyone has similar interests is a great way to build your #PLN. In addition, evening events are another great way to learn more and build your #PLN.

Events like #FlipgridLIVE give you access to amazing app updates and more. To learn more about the great updates that were announced at #FlipgridLIVE, check out this blog. These events also give you personalized connections to these vendors. Don’t just stay at your hotel scrolling your Twitter feed- be part of the Twitter feed! To watch my video reflection on this, click here.

Keep an eye out on all emails that you receive after you register and make sure you land one of those coveted EdTech Karaoke tickets! I was skeptical at first but it was such a blast. Also, make sure you attend some of the ISTE PLN meet-ups. It can be intimidating to go alone, but there are a lot of other people who came solo and together you can form a winning scavenger hunt team!”

Connections / Networking

This was my second ISTE in Philadelphia, my third ISTE overall. This ISTE for me, had a totally different vibe because I had a plan to attend playgrounds, posters, and meetups. I wanted to connect and meet the power players online, face to face. Friends, I did just that! I met so many amazing educators, shared a meal, or had a chat with game changers from around the world. For me, ISTE was all about making connections. Connections for me, in higher ed, are critical. It keeps me grounded to what is going on in real classrooms around the world. I can share with preservice teachers the dynamic learning and teaching going on in classrooms in many subject areas and grade levels.

Some of my go to ISTE 19 connections include the following educators, who did you connect with at ISTE that made your teacher heart sing?

Debbie goes onto share, “One of the highlights of my #ISTE19 experience was the connections I made while there. What really struck me was how nice everyone was. We were all here for a purpose- to help us, as educators determine how technology could help our students reach learning goals. I met so many people at ISTE. At first, I have to admit that I was “fangirling” hard when I met some of my “eduheroes” like Matt Miller, Jake Miller, Kasey Bell, Karly Moura, Eric Curts, Chris Nesi and so many more. It meant a lot to me to get to thank educators who I followed and listened to their podcasts for their impact on me as an educator. As time went by, rather than “fangirling,” I was just connecting with other educators who were part of my tribe. Getting to meet other educators who I have followed and corresponded with in real life was amazing. Making in person connections with my virtual PLN made the connections more concrete and added a new dimension to many of those prior connections. But more than that, I got to meet so many amazing new educators and add them to my #PLN. Meeting people from around the world and continuing to build my PLN was a truly amazing experience.”

Dr. Jess Redcay shares, “I met a lot of old and new friends at ISTE. I loved meeting people at the PAECT Regional Space. There were a lot of great activities taking place in the Regional Space from sock drives to GooseChase contests. In the vendor area, I had the chance to meet the creators of some of my favorite EdTech tools, like Qball, Padcaster, DoInk, RoboKind, etc. It was so great to share and learn with everyone!”

Amanda adds, “One of the big themes of ISTE is “Find Your People”. A wonderful mentor of mine, Katie Henry, explained to me years ago, Innovators often feel Isolated. In all fields, people who do things differently are often met with discontent, confusion, and misunderstanding. Many of the people who attend ISTE can and will tell stories of defeating the odds, trying new things no one has done before, and people telling them “NO”. This is precisely why they come to ISTE. It is an ecosystem of educators designed to give you exactly what you need: encouraging words, new ideas, and the hope of possibility. When you go to ISTE, you’re looking for your people who not only understand you but will support you in your ventures. My highlight of ISTE is my PLN: Katie Henry @KatieHenryDays, Melissa Unger @MelissaUnger15, Colleen Henrichsen @duqcolleen, and Anna Blake @annavblake.”

Dr. Erin shares, “This was my second ISTE and, by far, my favorite ISTE. Becoming more comfortable with what ISTE is over the last year has helped me understand how to work the conference while I’m there, but more importantly, how to utilize the resources of ISTE when I’m not there. I’m starting to “find my people” on Twitter while also becoming more active on Twitter. Meeting some of these phenomenal presenters, like Jessica Rae (@jessicarae929), Nate Green (@MrShakedown), Jason Trumble (@ProfTrumble), and of course, Sam Fecich (@Sfecich) helped me understand how I can incorporate social media not only in my classroom but also in my own professional development. I’m looking forward to building these connections over the next year and seeing how much not only I develop but also how my development impacts my students (positively, I hope!)”

Erin Hall shares, “It was crazy how many people that I’ve followed on Twitter or heard on Podcasts were suddenly surrounding me — it was all I could do to keep from fangirling on the escalator! I got to ask these incredible educators and speakers questions, learn from their inspiring sessions, and follow up on our virtual PLN. If I were to provide any tips for future ISTE attendees, it would be to take 5 minutes after each connection and find them on Twitter — I found it very overwhelming to save it all till the end of the day! Also, if you have anything you want to share with your PLN during this time, use an app like Buffer to jot down your ideas and schedule when you want them tweeted out!”

Closing thoughts

ISTE 2019 was an event full of learning, leading, connecting, and growing. We go to ISTE to get re-energized and reconnect with our “Why”. We go to surround ourselves with others around the world that are just as excited and pumped about teaching as we are. We go to stretch and challenge ourselves in new areas. We go to be the best educators we can be — from PreK-higher ed. We go to become better — together.

Thank you to my collaboration authors! You all are incredible.

If I could describe ISTE in 1 word it would be — Magical. ISTE is a place where I can meet all of the amazing educators that I connect with on social media.

Shout out to the lovely ladies who collaborated on this post with me:

  • Debbie — If I could describe ISTE in 1 word, it would be- Transformative. It was transformative to meet so many people in my PLN in person and learn from so many amazing educators.

  • Jess — If I could describe ISTE in 1 word it would be Super! I met some educators and presenters who I believe are superheroes. Also, I had the chance to visit the Marvel superhero exhibit that was in Philly.

  • Dr. Erin — Trying to describe ISTE in one word is difficult to do; however, let’s say: unbelievable.

  • Amanda — If I could describe ISTE19 in one word it would be Exhausting (bringing kids rewarding but tiring ;).

  • Erin — ISTE was exceptional — overwhelming, yes, but incredibly validating for me personally. Now I am 110% certain that Edu Innovation is where I want to focus the rest of my career!

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